Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park, located in Wyoming is nothing short of stunning! Given the close proximity of Yellowstone, I don’t think that Grand Teton gets the due it deserves. In 1929, Grand Teton National Park was established, protecting the beautiful mountain peaks and encompassing 310,000 acres. Grand Teton National Park has miles of hiking trails, wildlife and, of course, incredible views.
You could easily spend weeks exploring all that Grand Teton has to offer, but if you only have a day or two this is our list of fantastic stops that you and your family will enjoy.
Tip 1: Like other National Parks, Grand Teton offers a Junior Ranger program. If you are visiting with kids, the Junior Ranger program is a must and will make their time at Grand Teton National Park even more fun!
Tip 2: Get the free Grand Teton NPS app. When given the option to download it for offline use, do it. Cell service in the park is very spotty. With the app, you’ll be able to see exactly where you are in the park, as well as, road closures and upcoming stops.
You’ve more than likely seen a similar picture as someone’s wallpaper. 🙂 The history of Mormon Row dates back to the Homestead Act of 1862 that promised 160 acres of land to anyone who built homes and improved the land. After 5 years, the homesteader would then own the land free and clear.
In the 1890’s, Mormon families moved to the area hoping to have a new life. Of the many settlers than came here, 6 homesteads remain that have become a must stop when visiting Grand Teton National Park. The buildings that survived were added to the Register of Historic Places in 1997. There’s something intrigung about the T.A.Moulton barn set in front of the amazing backdrop that is the Grand Tetons.
Tip: Mormon Row is located on a dirt road, so be prepared for clouds of dust. Also, you may not go inside the barns.
Jenny Lake is probably the most popular location within Grand Teton National Park. There are a ton of activites, hikes and overlooks that you won’t want to miss. From Teton Park Road, you will see a sign for the Jenny Lake Overlook. It provides stunning views of the lake and it really is yet another must stop when visiting Grand Teton National Park.
Hiking around Jenny Lake: This is an approximately 7 mile hike to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. It’s a fairly easy hike that will reward you with – to no surprise – an inspiring view.
Tip 1: Pay attention to the signs on your hike as you don’t want to take a wrong turn. Remember, this area of the West is indeed bear country.
Taking the boat: If you don’t have time for a hike, take the boat across Jenny Lake. This ride is less than 15 minutes and will drop you off at the West Shore Boat Dock making the hike to Inspritation Point a lot faster. Boats leave every 10-15 minutes.
Tip 2: To avoid waiting and crowds, try and take the boat in the morning. Boats run from mid May until the end of September (depening on weather). The round-trip cost is $15, but there are discounts for chidren and seniors. We’ve been told that if you are on the first ride of the day the cost is $5. In the Summer, boats run from 7am to 7pm.
Oxbow Bend is an incredibly popular spot to take pictures. It’s where the Snake River becomes very wide and you get an amazing shot of Mount Moran.
You will see signs for Oxbow Bend and probably several cars also coming to enjoy the view. Once out of your car, step down onto the dirt path and through the trees you’ll see why you needed to stop.
This is a fairly quick stop and easy to fit into a tight schedule.
Chapel of the Transfiguration
Built in 1925, the Chapel was built to frame the Cathedral Group with a large window behind the alter. It’s an incredibly peaceful place that will awe you.
The Chapel is part of the Menor’s Ferry Historic District. Homesteaded by Bill Menor, he operated a ferry in the area until 1918.
Tip: Take the short walk down to Menor’s Ferry and see the ferry itself, the general store and Maud Noble’s home.
The Cathedral Group
The Cathedral Group refers to the tallest mountains in the Grand Tetons. Within this group are Grand Teton, Mount Owen and Teewinot Mountain. The turnout is just off of Teton Park Road and you’ll see a large parking lot where pictures can be safely taken.
Leeks Marina is a perfect place to stop and look at the water, as well as, the mountains. There’s also a pretty decent pizza restaurant in this area where you can not only enjoy a slice, but take in the unbeatable views on the outdoor deck.
Tip: While the restaurant can get very busy, it really is worth the wait. Having to wait by such a beautiful landscape isn’t too bad of a price to pay anyway. 🙂
Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor's Center
This relatively newly built visitor’s center is a nice place to stop during your day in Grand Teton National Park. Inside is a bookstore so don’t forget to stamp your Park Passport books! Also, you can pick up a Christmas ornament for your family travel tree.
There is a raised relief map giving you an aerial view of the Grand Tetons and all that makes up the park. Addtionally, there is a 24 minute HD movie that you and your family can watch about Grand Teton National Park. The Craig Thomas Discovery Visitor’s Center also offers trip planing assistance and there’s a permit desk if you plan to do additional things while in Grand Teton.
Chapel of the Sacred Heart
Chapel of the Sacred Heart was built in 1937 and remodeled in 2003. The Chapel seats about 115 people and weekend Masses are held June through September.
Although a basic log cabin in structure, its simplicity is what seems to make it so beautiful. This would also be a nice place to bring a lunch and have a picnic.
While wildlife doesn’t seem to be as prominent in Grand Teton as compared to Yellowstone, this park is indeed bear country.
At Oxbow Bend, deer, bald eagles, moose and even the occasional bear have been spotted. Near Mormon Row along Antelope Flats Road, bison and pronghorn seem to be plentiful. Moose-Wilson Road is also popular for wildlife enthusiasts. In particular, moose seem to have been spotted the most. However, there have been a lot of bear sightings as well.
Note: Moose-Wilson Road is closed to trailers and RV’s over 23 feet in length.
One of Grand Teton National Park’s most famous residents is Grizzly 399 ( AKA Grandma Grizzly). At 22 years old, she is much older than usual for non-captive grizzlies and has raised over a dozen cubs and grandcubs.
Tip: Wildlife viewing is best done in the early morning or early evening.
Visit Jackson Hole
Jackson Hole is so close to Grand Teton try to make the time to stop and visit. Going to the town square and taking a picture at the famous antler arch alone is worth going. Although used interchangeably, Jackson generally refers to the main town while Jackson Hole generally refers to the entire valley area.
We had a great time in Jackson Hole and there is a TON of food, shopping and activity options.
Tip 2: During the Summer months (especially July), hotels in Jackson not only book quickly, but are at a premium in terms of price ($200+ per night). Make sure that you plan accordingly if you’d like to stay in Jackson.
Grand Teton National Park is perfect for all kinds of travel. Whether you plan to camp, hike or you just want to sightsee and take beautiful pictures, this park offers abundant options. Additionally, couples, solo travelers or family travelers can all find somethng they enjoy and create wonderful memories.
Our boys ( 13 & 9) loved Grand Teton National Park and are already asking when we can go back. It’s great to breathe fresh air, get back to nature and have a day ( or two) of adventure, laughter and awe.